- England will be happy that they will avoid picking up injuries against France
- But they must not go soft after two weeks without a competitive contest
- It is easy to relax mentally knowing that there will be no game on Saturday
- Eddie Jones will have plans in place to make his side battle-ready for Australia
Deep down, England will be happy that their Pool C game against France was abandoned
There is always danger of suffering more injuries and niggles, now those dangers are avoided
Eddie Jones will keep his side ticking over so they don’t go soft ahead of their quarter final
Two weeks is a long time off so the squad cannot get lazy, relax or get cabin fever in Miyazaki
And it is knock-out rugby from now on, so they will be in a great place going into that game
Sergio Parisse has managed to keep motivated with Italy despite a number of career defeats
Japan head coach Jamie Joseph is as determined as Scotland to get Sunday’s match on
England will say they are disappointed that their France game was cancelled, but deep down they will be happy. The challenge now is to avoid cabin fever – and the danger of going soft.
It would have been good to keep up the momentum and a match against the French would have been an ideal exercise to test and battle-harden the team for the quarter-finals.
From Eddie’s point of view, I think he would have liked that.
But there is always the danger of suffering more injuries and niggles.
Now there is an opportunity to re-condition guys and not have another week of impacts, which is a good thing. It is a chance for guys to get a pump on in the gym – get a real good sweat on and get their bodies feeling really sharp going into the quarters.
Without a game this weekend, there will be some ‘Test match training’ chucked in there at some point. That is a way to keep the guys robust and ready to play.
Having 14 days between games is a long time and they won’t want the guys going soft. So they will organise some training to replicate a game, to keep them physically primed. It is impossible to have a proper 15 v 15 game with the numbers they’ve got out there in Japan, and some guys will be wrapped up and managed carefully.
But the forwards might do some contact work on the wrestle mats and there will be one day in this block when they say: ‘Right, the game’s off, so let’s physically give the guys a prod.’
That might mean some live breakdown work or live tackle stuff. They’ll look to keep the guys sharp, robust and primed.
In training they can replicate games and make it even harder, in terms of the demands on your fitness. In a game, you might get off the floor twice or three times in a minute – ruck, carry, ruck – but in training they might make you do that six times in a minute.
So in terms of controlled contact aspects, they can work you harder than in a game. But you can’t fully replicate game scenarios and obviously it is not the same in training as it is when it’s all on the line in a game.
One problem they could have is a bit of cabin fever. When you are training towards a game at the weekend, you have something to focus on. Now that England aren’t playing France, there must be mental resilience, driven by the senior players, so that the guys enjoy the down-time, but don’t get too comfortable.
They can’t get lazy in their diet habits and things like that. There is still work to be done.
Owen Farrell will stand in front of the room and say: ‘There is no game this weekend, so mentally you can relax, but when you come to work again, we have to work really hard.’
They can throw out their plans for France now and just prepare for Australia. They will have an extra few days to prepare, instead of cramming in specific training for Australia next week. But 14 days is a long time to wait for a game, during a tournament. By the time the quarter-final comes around, they will be physically and mentally gagging for it.
And it is knock-out rugby from now on, so they will be in a great place going into that game.
This is also when they should benefit from a lot of back-up planning, which makes the team resilient. It shouldn’t matter what hotel they’re in or whether they’re back in Miyazaki or whatever. With England, we threw out the blueprint for what I knew as rugby.
Since Eddie took charge, we have deliberately experimented.
It might be a sudden change of hotel, or a change to our training plans the day before the game – the ‘captain’s run’.
We might do it at our training base rather than at Twickenham, or just do walk-throughs, or not do anything, if training had been going well.
It has made this England team so adaptable and malleable. They can mould to wherever they are and whatever is happening. It doesn’t matter if the bus breaks down on the way to the game.
The team are not fazed by these things and that helps, because I think the teams who are able to adapt best will be the front-runners to win the World Cup.
SYMPATHY FOR SUPER SERGIO
I feel sorry for Sergio Parisse, who expected to finish his international career with a match against the All Blacks.
But his story is amazing – even without that big finale. He has led and carried Italy for years and everyone around the world recognises that. What a player and what a talisman.
Without wanting to patronise Italian rugby, I have experienced losing runs – two or three games in a row with England, or at Northampton in the depths of winter when you’re looking for a result. To captain sides in situations like that is difficult, so for Parisse to keep going back to the well and keep lifting himself and his team every time – when they have lost so often – is unbelievable.
To keep making that team driven and competitive is testament to his character, and for him to perform the way he has too is amazing. No one has usurped him in all these years and he has just got better and better and better.
STOP WHINING ABOUT CANCELLED MATCHES
It is a shame that matches have been cancelled at the World Cup. It definitely takes a bit of oomph out of the tournament and makes it stutter a bit.
Whoever goes on to win it, there will always be people saying that some games were missed, but the rules are put in place for a reason. It is unfortunate, it is not what we want to see, but they had to think about the safety of everyone involved.
We’ve been talking about HIAs and high tackles, and everyone has been saying that player safety is paramount. Well now there’s a typhoon coming! It is such a dangerous situation. People who are whining about what has happened probably don’t really understand what a typhoon is. I had to google it, to get my head around it. And it’s not good. At all.
I got my weather report from Paul Grayson’s tweet, saying that the last typhoon had done hundreds of millions of pounds worth of damage and three people died, but that was not even half the size of what’s coming this time. People living in Blighty think that we have wind and rain all year round, so they could deal with a typhoon, but they might have to re-evaluate. These things rip up buildings.
I would be interested to know if they could have played those cancelled games anywhere without supporters. Could they have moved them somewhere, to closed stadiums if necessary, to make sure they still happened?
There are conspiracy theories going round about New Zealand not wanting to agree to a five-day turn-around, but those theories don’t matter because there were rules put in place. The rules were agreed and everyone signed up to them before the tournament. So if the All Blacks want to use those rules to their advantage, they can do that.
Let’s hope that Japan’s match against Scotland isn’t called off because of the typhoon.
It could be the match of the tournament so far. It’s too close to call, for me.
Scotland are desperate for the game to happen, so it’s great that Jamie Joseph has said that Japan are just as desperate to play. It’s like a heavyweight boxing fight, with both sides calling each other out and people want the fight.
If it goes ahead, there will be two emotionally-charged teams on the big stage. Japan have fronted up in every game they’ve played and will want to prove that they deserve the right to be in the quarters. Scotland beat Samoa and Russia, now they have to convince people that they are much better than when they lost badly to Ireland. It should be amazing – if it happens.